The series finale of Mad Men has, understandably, resulted in plenty of discussion today. A lot happened. Joan did cocaine and then started a production company. (How most production companies get started.) Stan confessed his love to Peggy over the phone and then sprinted through the McCann hallways to deliver a scratchy beard-covered smooch when she said she loved him, too. (STAN.) And Don went to California and used his experiences at a hippie retreat to create the iconic “Hilltop” commercial for Coca-Cola. (Unless he didn’t and it was a metaphor.) But rather than focus on trivial matters like those or who may or may not have called the ending of the series back in April, I’d like to bring something else to your attention.
Pete Campbell could still get eaten by a bear.
Think about it. Yes, we saw Pete and his family get a send-off on the show as they waltzed onto a Learjet bound for Wichita. And fine, there was nothing in the finale that implied in any way that a bear attack would be forthcoming. But you know what else wasn’t in the finale? Any explicit indicator that Pete WON’T EVER get eaten by a bear. As long as that plane didn’t crash and turn into a fireball somewhere between Manhattan and Kansas (no sure bet given the Campbell family’s history with non-ground-based travel methods), he has a long life to live from the point the show leaves off. He’s still a young man, somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 or 36. He has decades left to watch his children grow up, improve his golf game on the finest courses Wichita has to offer, and yes, get attacked and eaten by a bear.
Now, I’m not saying Pete Campbell WILL get eaten by a bear. There’s no way any of us could know that for certain, because (A) if Matthew Weiner is to be believed, and no spin-off is forthcoming, this is the last we’ll ever see of Pete; and (B) bear attacks are hard to predict. A bear attack can happen anywhere and any time a bear is nearby, and to anyone: you, me, Learjet executives getting their violent cosmic comeuppance for their past sins, etc. My point is that we don’t know either way, thanks to Matthew Weiner’s refusal to clear this up with a simple “Where Are They Now?”-style graphic over a freeze frame of Pete boarding the plane. (Ex: “Pete Campbell became CEO of Learjet in 1975. Then a bear ate him and he died. After a brief period of grieving, Trudy went on to marry James Caan.” Or something like that.)
The one matter complicating things is that, well, there aren’t a lot of bears in Kansas. Black bears were more or less wiped out in the state in the early 1900s, and despite a small recent uptick in population, there’s still not enough for the state wildlife agency to estimate the population at anything above “not extinct.” But he will be traveling a lot, and it only takes one, right? Who knows, maybe it even happened right after the camera cut away on the show.
“But wait,” you say. “Are you implying a bear was on that Learjet? Why a would a bear be on a Learjet? And does that mean Trudy and the kid got eaten, too? THEY WERE INNOCENT. THEY DON’T DESERVE TO DIE.”
Well, first of all, I would point out that Trudy was wearing an awful lot of fur as she was boarding the plane, so maybe she tucked their child inside her jacket and the bear spared them because it thought they were another bear. In fact, maybe this was her plan all along. MAYBE SHE SET HIM UP. The old “lure the philanderous husband you just reconciled with onto a private plane so a bear can eat him” ruse. I’ve seen it a million times.
As for what the bear was doing on a small private plane? Well…
Can’t rule it out.